John 3:18 — ‘Name’ as Code for Covenant (Nicodemus part 8) — LeGrand Baker

18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

There is always a new name associated with each new covenant. To not believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God is to deny the validity of the covenants that enable our salvation.

“The Only Begotten Son of God” is a name/title that identifies Jesus as the Son and heir of his Father. That name connotes the full spectrum of his identities, among which are Creator, Redeemer, Savior, First Fruits of the Resurrection, Eternal Judge, and many others. To not believe in his names is to deny both the authority and the covenants that the name denotes. {1}

When one makes a new covenant, that adds a new dimension to a person’s being and the new name is the title of that new identity. In our culture, as well as in our Church, every time we make a new covenant we get a new name.

For example Mr. Richards is elected as governor. He takes an oath (which is making a covenant) and gets a new name/title. His name is now “governor.” Brother Jackson is called to be bishop. He does not make a new covenant because he did that when he was endowed and renews it every time he takes the sacrament. However, he is ordained and the ordination was preceded by a new promise rather than by a new formal covenant, and he receives a new name, “Bishop.” The new assignment carries inherent responsibilities and powers; and the new name describes his new identity; and that identity defines him as a new person. The same thing is true when a young man goes on a mission and is called “elder.” Mormon describes the people at the time of Captain Moroni that same way.

15 And those who did belong to the church were faithful; yea, all those who were true believers in Christ took upon them, gladly, the name of Christ, or Christians as they were called, because of their belief in Christ who should come (Alma 46:15).

For that reason, the word “name” is often used in the scriptures to refer to both the person and his covenant. A few examples where the Savior’s name also means his covenants in the psalms are:

3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake (Psalm 23:3).

11 For thy name’s sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great (Psalm 25:10-11).

9 Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name: and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name’s sake. Psalms 79:1 – 13)

John the Beloved reminded the Saints of his day,

|12 I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.
13 I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father (1 John 2:7-17).

By the mouth of Isaiah, Jehovah himself declared,

9 For my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off.
10 Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.
11 For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another (Isaiah 48:8 – 14; 1 Nephi 20:9 – 12).

Probably the best explanation of the relationship of covenants and names is by King Benjamin.

7 And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.
8 And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.
9 And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ.
10 And now it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall not take upon him the name of Christ must be called by some other name; therefore, he findeth himself on the left hand of God (Mosiah 5:3-10).

When the Lord spoke to Alma and assured him that all would be well, he commended Alma and his friends for their faith in his name. It is significant that in this conversation the Lord makes a real, though subtle distinction between himself and his name.

14 And it came to pass that after he had poured out his whole soul to God, the voice of the Lord came to him, saying:
15 Blessed art thou, Alma, and blessed are they who were baptized in the waters of Mormon. Thou art blessed because of thy exceeding faith in the words alone of my servant Abinadi.
16 And blessed are they because of their exceeding faith in the words alone which thou hast spoken unto them.
17 And blessed art thou because thou hast established a church among this people; and they shall be established, and they shall be my people.
18 Yea, blessed is this people who are willing to bear my name; for in my name shall they be called; and they are mine.
19 And because thou hast inquired of me concerning the transgressor, thou art blessed.
20 Thou art my servant; and I covenant with thee that thou shalt have eternal life; and thou shalt serve me and go forth in my name, and shalt gather together my sheep.
21 And he that will hear my voice shall be my sheep; and him shall ye receive into the church, and him will I also receive.
22 For behold, this is my church; whosoever is baptized shall be baptized unto repentance. And whomsoever ye receive shall believe in my name; and him will I freely forgive.
23 For it is I that taketh upon me the sins of the world; for it is I that hath created them; and it is I that granteth unto him that believeth unto the end a place at my right hand (Mosiah 26:12 – 23).

Mormon put it all in a very neat package when he placed our faith (pistis) and the Savior’s name is the same equation. {2}

37 And may the Lord Jesus Christ grant that their prayers may be answered according to their faith; and may God the Father remember the covenant which he hath made with the house of Israel; and may he bless them forever, through faith on the name of Jesus Christ. Amen (Mormon 9:34 – 37).

In ancient Israel there were some covenant names that were much more significant than others, just as some covenants were much more long-lasting than others. The most important publicly known covenant name was “son”—the one formally bestowed on the king at the time of his coronation. It was the epitome of those names because his adoption as a son of God contained the implicit assurance that his sonship would not terminate with his death. It was that name that established the eternal covenant relationships between the king and God, and by extension, between the people, the king, and God.{3}

New names often represented a covenant where no written contract was necessary. All that was necessary were mutual agreements on the terms of the covenant, and a verbal exchange of names, as illustrated in the following hypothetical story: Two persons make a covenant. Sam and Joe covenant that they will be friends forever. The agreement is that if Sam still remembers Joe in ten years, Joe will give him $100 that he will spend taking both families to dinner. The responsibilities are these: Sam will contact Joe, and Joe will provide the $100. To bind the covenant, they exchange new names. Sam’s new name is Green, Joe’s is Brown. Each person is now a larger and more complex individual than he was before because something new has been added to his Self. The new covenant names are more than just an affirmation of friendship, they are an evidence of an expansion of their Selves. They are each a larger and more complex person because their friendship made them so. Their covenant names represent their new realities. The covenant names relate to, and are only known by each other. However, those new extensions of Self will only survive for as long as the covenant remains unbroken. (So, in 1 Nephi 20:11 we hear the Lord say, “For mine own sake, yea, for mine own sake will I do this, for I will not suffer my name to be polluted, and I will not give my glory unto another.”) Ten years pass, a child knocks on Joe’s door and says, “You are Brown, and my daddy is Green,” and she holds out her hand for the money. She need say no more than that. She is not Sam, but she knows the names, and the covenant is embodied in the names. If Joe does not respond, the covenant isbroken and both Green and Brown cease to exist. For example, Nibley writes that in ancient Egypt, preserving the name was of the utmost importance because “the name is a person’s essence. If his name perishes, he himself does not exist any more.”{4} However, the converse is also true. If Joe does respond correctly, and gives the little girl the $100, then the covenant is sealed, and both Green and Brown—and their bond of friendship—live forever.
Mowinckel understood the significance of new names, and explained why it was so important to the king of Israel. He wrote:

[The king’s] anointing was related to his endowment with the spirit. The later tradition says explicitly that when David was anointed, ‘the spirit of Yahweh leaped upon him’.
In virtue of his endowment with the divine spirit, the king is filled with superhuman power. He receives ‘a new heart’; he is changed into a new man (1 Sam. x, 6, 9). …He receives a new disposition expressed, according to oriental custom, in giving to him a new name which indicates his new, intimate relationship with the God who has chosen him, and whom he represents.
Through his anointing and endowment with the divine spirit, the king also receives superhuman wisdom. {5}

The new name that the king received at the time of his coronation accorded to him the responsibilities and powers embodied in the ancient concepts of covenants, treaties, adoption, and heirship. His anointing had been the confirming evidence of the validity of those powers, and his new name was the personal verification of them. As was true with all other parts of the ceremony, when the king received his new name, each participant in the audience received the same covenant new name. When a person received a new name, both the name and the covenant become a part of the individual’s living Self. If one were to break the covenant and lose the name, he violated that part of the law of his own being, and consequently he became less than he would have been otherwise. It was understood that God could not break his part of the covenant, so that left the king (and his individual subjects) entirely free to define their own destinies. The underlying concept was that God’s children had the power to shrink or to expand their individual Selves by breaking or keeping the covenants they had made with God.


{1}See “Christ, Names of” in the Bible Dictionary.

{2}Faith is pistis which means covenant or contract. See pistis using the search engine in this website.

{3}This and the following paragraphs are from Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord.

{4} Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1975), 139.

{5} Sigmund Mowinckel, He that Cometh (New York: Abingdon, 1954), 66.


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